Family awarded $1.5 million for wrongly being told family member had died

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 8:35 AM CDT
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SANTA ANA, Calif. (KCAL) - A California family has been awarded $1.5 million after they were wrongly told their family member had died.

The family even held a funeral for him and didn’t learn he was alive until weeks later.

“Well, ... it was unbelievable ... I mean, we had buried him a couple of weeks prior,” Carole Meikle said.

When her brother, Frankie Kerrigan, showed up at his pall bearer’s house in Orange County in May 2017, everyone was stunned.

The family had buried who they thought was Kerrigan a few weeks earlier.

It turns out it was a different man who was discovered dead behind the Verizon store in Fountain Valley, California.

Jurors sided with the family on Tuesday, awarding them more than $1 million for the mix-up at the coroner’s office.

“Today we achieved a verdict, and the jury awarded compensation in the amount of $1.5 million for the emotional stress and mental anguish they suffered,” the family’s attorney, James Desimone, said.

The Orange County coroner isn’t commenting on the unusual case. However, in a statement in 2017, the department apologized to the Kerrigan family.

Policies and procedures will be reviewed to ensure no further misidentifications occur, the coroner’s office said.

According to the family’s attorney, the family was told their loved one was identified through fingerprints, which was not true.

Meikle said the identification was done with a 12-year-old DMV photo of Kerrigan and little information from a police officer.

“A positive ID was made without verifying his fingerprints, without any biometrics, without any science, and it was wrong,” she said.

Kerrigan’s father, Frank Kerrigan, said that while the experience was traumatizing for the family, there was some good that came out of it.

“It’s traumatic for us in every way from the beginning to now, but now it’s in a good way because we’re helping Frank, and we’re helping everybody else that could possibly have this kind of mistake,” he said.

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